law Archive

Apple Loses DOJ Lawsuit

By Dan | Filed in law

Apple Inc is no stranger to the courtroom.  They have gone to court with Samsung, Motorola, Microsoft, The Beatles, etc.  On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice has won its case against Apple Inc.

Apple was found guilty of price-fixing and hurting competition.  According to this article:

[T]he judge [is] saying not only that the government has proven a per se violation of the Sherman Act “through compelling direct and circumstantial evidence that Apple participated in and facilitated a horizontal price-fixing conspiracy,” but also that Apple has failed to show the agreements had pro-competitive effects.

The case revolves around Apple conspiring with e-book publishers, since 2009, to raise prices in a scheme to knock off Amazon.

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In a followup to an earlier article, Apple has successfully sued Samsung for $1.05 Billion in a patent infringement lawsuit.  Apple threw the book at Samsung, claiming a sole patent on things like a cell phone being rectangular with rounded corners, size/shape of icons, etc.

From the NY Times

The image shows the two different phones.  Samsung, on the left, is bigger, darker and just fundamentally different than the iPhone on the right.  Do they have similarities?  Absolutely.  But there are similarities between any two things that essentially perform the same the same functions (ie, talk, text, surf, etc).

What gets me is that Samsung just bought, used and observed the iPhone.  I could understand if Samsung stole code or images, but all that happened is that Samsung was inspired by the iPhone.  If Apple was more secure about its creative superiority, then they wouldn’t need to waste time in the courtroom, they’d just work on the next great iPhone.

However, that didn’t happen, and us consumers will pay for it.  The NY Times reports:

The case underscores how dysfunctional the patent system has become. Patent litigation has followed every industrial innovation, whether it is steam engines, cars or, now, phones. And it is the courts, rather than the patent office, that are being used to push companies toward a truce.

In the end, consumers may be the losers. The substantial legal fees may be passed on in higher prices, analysts say, and litigation can deter entrepreneurs from entering the industry, so there is less competition.

“It is hard not to see all the patent buying and patent lawsuits as a distortion of the role of patents,” said Josh Lerner, an economist and patent expert at Harvard Business School. “They are supposed to be an incentive for innovation.”

By one estimate, as many as 250,000 patents can be used to claim ownership of some technical or design element in a smartphone. Each patent is potentially a license to sue.

Samsung says it will challenge the jury’s decision, which covered design basics like the shape of the iPhone itself and its array of small on-screen icons. So the courtroom conflict could continue for years, and even then, the case is but one of dozens of lawsuits and countersuits in 10 countries between Apple and Samsung, the world’s two leading smartphone makers.

Coders beware!

I personally feel this is unfortunate in the history of programming.  If we’re not able to be inspired by products in our field without fear of legal retaliation, growth in our field would stymied.  Learning what works and building upon that is the cornerstone of innovation.

Lawsuits have their place in our industry – fight monopolistic practices, protect code, protect consumers.  But slowing down innovation during such an exciting time is awful!

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Studying the Competition

By Dan | Filed in law

The first week of the Apple vs Samsung trial ended Friday over Apple’s allegations of “patent infringement” against Samsung.  Apple says Samsung stole their iPhone designs.

eWeek reports:

An Apple attorney showed Denison (chief strategy officer for Samsung’s mobile business) an internal Samsung document titled “Galaxy S1 v. iPhone” from March of 2010, when Samsung was developing a smartphone to rival the iPhone, which was first introduced in 2007. While acknowledging that the report was a detailed comparison of the two products, he said it was not about copying features of the iPhone in the Galaxy S.

Earlier in the day, Scott Forstall, the Apple senior VP in charge of the iOS software for iPads and iPhones, testified that Apple, too, did “tear-downs” of competitors products, including the Samsung Galaxy S, but that’s done to benchmark the designs of rivals, not copy them, which is what Apple accuses Samsung of doing.

I have to admit, the distinction doesn’t click for me.  Why would a company “benchmark the designs of rivals” if not to copy or improve upon them?  And is that truly a bad thing?

This lawsuit obviously has major implications for developers.  Would this mean “best practices” and learning from competitors could be outlawed?  In some ways it protects our hard work.  But in many ways it would stifle growth and progress.

Time will tell

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